Jesus’ chilling warning in Matthew 7 tells us that many who think they have believed in and served Jesus Christ in this life will be shocked when they found out on Judgment Day that they have been duped, and with great eternal consequences.
Last time, we asked the questions, “How can we know when we have been misled by a false prophet? More than that, how can we know if we have actually been following a bogus or false Jesus?
Jesus tells us in the midst of His warnings that there are two ways to discern when you have been led astray by a false prophet into following a false Jesus.
First, he warns that we must carefully examine the fruits, or the works, of the “prophet” whom we are following: “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16-20).
History has repeatedly shown that those who are willing to change, replace, distort or eliminate the Word of God have unrighteous motives for doing so. They value the perks associated with creating a group of people who will exclusively follow them—the fame, the money, the influence, the authority, the power—everything associated with becoming a religious leader.
We dare not ignore the glaring inconsistencies in the moral lives of the founders of whatever church, movement or faith we follow. They are often the first clue that we have been led astray.
The second protection against deception is mentioned in the context immediately following the chilling warning of Matthew 7:21-23. Jesus tells us that our entire destiny rests upon our careful and conscientious response to His Words: “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell and the winds blew and slammed against that house, and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish men who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).
In other words, the very foundation of our lives must be based on Jesus’ words, found here, and also on the words of those whom He sent—His apostles. That would include the New Testament. The very fact that those who are commanded to depart from Him did not do the will of His Father in Heaven, but rather practiced lawlessness is testimony that they either nullified, distorted, replaced or ignored Jesus’ Words and the words of His apostles in the New Testament. God’s Word is our protection against this horrible deception that will bring about such a nightmare scenario for many on Judgment Day.
To sum up, we must carefully examine any teacher or prophet we follow concerning whether his life and conduct match up with the morality and spiritual truths that Jesus both taught and practiced in his own earthly life. The teachings of any movement, church or sect we are associated with must be critically compared to Jesus’ teachings—as we find them plainly stated in the Bible by both Himself and His apostles. Substantial variations between a prophet’s practices and teachings and the teachings and practices of Jesus Christ Himself is a red flag—a warning sign that we may well have been duped, to our eternal regret.
It’s a matter of Biblical discernment.
Next time, we will pursue other New Testament Scriptures which will clarify for us exactly what kinds of deceptions threaten our eternal destinies.
–Pastor Jim Wallace, Th.M., Dallas Seminary